Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fight brewing over voter registration

Don't get too alarmed about this New York Times story today ("States' Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal"). For news about voter rolls in Ohio, read this Columbus Dispatch piece instead ("GOP, Brunner spar over voter data").

The Times story sounds scary, but is very confusing. The story tries to cover two very different concerns about voting rolls: how to verify brand-new registrations, and when to delete really old, inactive registrations. In Ohio, the fight is about the new voters.

Republicans have sued Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, claiming she isn't matching new registrations with the state driver's license database or, if that info doesn't match, social security info. Brunner says she is doing it.

In fact, the Social Security Administration, nudged by the New York Times, is concerned that Ohio and other states are checking registrations against social security info too often. The NYT suggests this could mean the states aren't looking their records first and using only social security info, which could incorrectly identify some registrations as suspect. Not so, Brunner says: the state's voting and driving databases are hooked up electronically.

Brunner says she's worried the Republicans are really suing to use mismatched registrations to challenge voters' eligibility. This could become a big issue, or a non-issue, in the next week.

Update, Fri. 10/10: The judge ruled that Brunner has to turn over lists of the new registrations that don't match state and federal records to county election officials. See the Dispatch story here and the Plain Dealer story here.

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